A Lesson in Compassion from Donnie, the Homeless Man

Updated: Aug 25


After work yesterday, I decided to go down to the beach, have a beer at Sandy’s Beach Bar and watch the sunset. It sounded like the perfect ending to a very emotional week and the beginning of a weekend that had nothing on the agenda except rest.

I stepped out of the parking garage and saw a homeless man washing clothes in a bucket. He didn’t lift his head as I walked by. I remembered that I had a $10 bill in my purse and I took it out and went back to give it to him. He took it and said thank you. Wanting to start a conversation but not quite sure how, I said, “tough times, huh?” He responded, “No, not so tough anymore. I’m okay and at peace now.”


Not the response that I was expecting.


Donnie told me about this life. How his mother was an alcoholic who worked 2-3 jobs to take care of 4 boys by herself. He was often without any supervision. Eventually, he got into meth and spent the next 14 years in and out of prison facilities. While he was serving one of the terms, his twin brother died of cancer. He said the type of cancer is said to be caused by cooking meth. He blamed himself for his twin’s death. He died while Donnie was still in prison and wasn’t able to say goodbye. When he got out, he was arrested again for cooking meth, but what he was doing was creating the gas that he believed killed his brother so he, too, could get the cancer.


Donnie was released from prison and was clean enough to go to college. He studied social work and was just a few classes from graduating. He wanted to work with children who suffered like he did, but his felonies wouldn’t allow him to work with children. Around the same time, he lost his job. He found himself on the streets.


Donnie says that he takes care of his area on the street and stays clean. He does odd jobs when he can and he’s at peace with his life. He’s very passionate about how we take care of people in our society. He has seen first hand how children fall through the cracks, fall into the wrong crowd, and become consumed by the underworld of drugs. “We don’t take care of our people,” he says. “We can’t have the rehab facilities and prison facilities be money makers. They need to be run by the people as non-profits.” Donnie had many great ideas about how to improve the system based on his first-hand experience.


Donnie’s words hit a nerve because I had just finished reading the book, “Tales of a Female Nomad,” in which a woman in mid-life sells all that she has and travels the world, living among people for months and years at a time so she can be immersed in the culture. What struck me to tears is how welcoming the people of these cultures were. Perfect strangers would welcome her into their homes with zero fear. They would make her an honorary part of their family. She would sleep in their home and eat meals with their family. A perfect stranger. I thought about how seldom that happens in our society.


Both of these stories resonated with me because one year ago, I was 10 days from being homeless. I had been out of work for 2 years and had gone through all of my savings and credit cards and could no longer pay my rent. I was a middle-class woman! How could it happen that I would be homeless? But the ugly truth is that is where I found myself. One week before having to be out of my house, a friend’s client said he had an unfinished casita that I could stay in for free. A perfect stranger, an angel named Richard, came to my rescue. One week later I was finally offered a job and my life instantly turned around. But that was a very close call that affected me deeply.


We all go through hard times at some point in our lives. Some challenges are more dramatic than others, but we all go through them. It's why we choose to be born as humans on Earth - to experience challenges that ultimately bring us closer to love. It's our soul's journey. That is what is so important to remember - we are all spirits living human lives. We are all one. Because we are all one, Donnie’s suffering affects me and it affects you. We are all part of this cosmic soup that we call the collective unconscious.


I am passionate about spiritual development because the way we show up in the world affects everything and everyone around us. When we resonate energetically with love and compassion, that is what we put out into the collective unconscious. When we resonate energetically with anger, resentment, hate, and fear, then that is what we put out into the world. Self-reflection and personal and spiritual development not only help us live happier, more fulfilling lives, but also brings more love and compassion into our world and creates positive change. It really is worth the effort, and in fact, our world depends on it.


Some questions for you to ponder: How are you showing up in the world? Are you energetically putting out love and compassion? Does fear cloud your ability to truly care for others? Are you choosing love or fear? I ask you to pay attention to how you interact with others as you go throughout your day. How can you be more loving? How can you help one stranger feel special today? How can you show up in a way that will help bring more love into our world?


Love and Light,

Lara

Lara Brekken, CPC, ELI-MP

Lara@larabrekken.com

Huntington Beach, CA

310-402-3592

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